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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A wee break!

I forgot to mention that my dear wife and I plan to head off tomorrow morning to the beautiful town of Elgin, for a wee break. As we will be taking our caravan, it is unlikely that we will have any internet access (unless we find a McDonald's!) so no more posts until next Wednesday. However, do keep checking - just in case - and do remember to go to the link on the left-hand side-bar and vote for my interview: every twenty-four hours, if you can be bothered!!

Repentance - or "Sorry I was caught"?

So Mr Gordon Brown thinks that a lady who had the temerity to question him on a range of policies is "a bigoted woman". Oh, I know that once he had discovered that his honest personal opinion had inadvertently been shared with millions via a still-live radio microphone, he made profuse apologies - even referring to himself as a "penitent sinner"!

Unfortunately, for Mr Brown (and, by the way, I listened to him on a radio 'phone-in programme where all but one caller addressed him as either Mr Brown, or Prime Minister; yet he seemed to think that he had the automatic right to address each one by his/her first name!), I suspect that I am not the only member of the electorate who will draw the conclusion that his sorrow was for having been caught. "Bigot", I would suggest, is not the kind of terminology that one uses about someone simply because, as Mr Brown later tried to make out, one isn't sure that one has managed to get one's own point of view across!

"A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit." said Jesus. "A tree is identified by the kind of fruit it produces. Figs never grow on thornbushes or grapes on bramble bushes. A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say." (Luke 6:43-45; my emphasis)

Not for the first time, Mr Brown's "moral compass" would appear to be pointing in the wrong direction. Being a son of the manse does not automatically make one a son of the Kingdom!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Persecution!

As we, in the U.K., are caught up in the (worthless??) promises of the political parties that are vying for our votes on May 6th, these are the sort of things that are happening in other parts of the world. From Northern Nigeria comes this horrific report:

"Tensions remain high in Jos as an ongoing spate of 'secret murders' has followed the well-publicised massacre of Christians in and around the city last month.

Plateau State Police Commissioner Ikechukwu Aduba told the Associated Press (AP) news agency that police are retrieving corpses 'on a daily basis'. These murders occur, he believes, when Christians and Muslims stray into neighbourhoods beyond their own.

A suspected bomb blast in the Dadin Kuwa area of Jos on April 12 left three young Muslims severely injured – but most of the violence reported has been against Christians.

Two Christian miners were killed last week and three others went missing in an attack by ethnic Fulani Muslims near Rim village, 18 miles south of Jos. Two people were hospitalised with gunshot wounds on the same day when about 20 Fulani men raided the nearby village of Tahoss. Earlier this month, Ishaku Sunday was attacked with a machete while grazing his cattle in the Vom area of Jos – and his friend was killed.

The Nigerian army says that it managed to avert an assault on the mainly Christian village of Bisichi, south of Jos, engaging suspected attackers in a gun battle and killing two of them, after a distress call from villagers. But church and community leaders are becoming increasingly vocal about the perceived inaction of the military amid the continuing violence.

An effort to bring both Christians and Muslims together in prayer in Jos earlier this month ended in bloodshed when 'hoodlums' disrupted an interfaith ceremony and began rioting. Three people died and several others were injured at the event, according to AP.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Bauchi state, Islamist extremists are alleged to have abducted and killed Pentecostal pastor Ishaya Kadah and his wife Selina in Boto village, Tafawa Balewa district. Their burnt bodies were discovered in the bush on April 12, two days after they went missing, reports the Agence France Presse news agency.

The couple, members of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), had only returned to the area recently after their church was destroyed In January. Islamist extremists are alleged to have burnt down the building to target Christian refugees who had sought refuge in the COCIN compound after fleeing the violence in Jos.

(Sources: AFP, AP, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Compass Direct)"

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Quotable Quotes

Well, that's the 10,000 barrier well and truly broken! A few random quotations - just to celebrate!

If you want to feel rich, just count all of the things that you have that money can't buy. - Anon.

In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy. - Karl Reiland

Happiness is a direction, not a place! - Anon.

A real friend is one who walks in, when the rest of the world walks out. - Walter Winchell

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. - Winston Churchill.

I count him braver who conquers his desires, than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self. - Aristotle

God, without man, is still God; man, without God, is lost. - Anon

The proof of spiritual maturity is not how 'pure' you are, but your awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to God's grace. - Philip Yancey

Bible study is not merely to inform us; it's meant to transform us! - Anon.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

What's in a number?

The usual question to be asked is "What's in a name" - followed by a reference to the well-known Shakespearian quotation: "What's in a name? that which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet;" (Romeo & Juliet; Act 2, Sc 2).

My amendment to 'number' is a reference to the fact that, since I added a counter to this blog, to record the number of 'hits' it receives, it has had almost 10,000 visitors (not all of whom stay for very long!). As I type, the number sits at 9,964 and, as my vists are (deliberately) not counted, I am interested to know who visitor 10,000 is!

Perhaps, over the next day or two, every visitor could take a moment to check the counter (it's further down, in the left-hand side-bar) and, if it shows 10,000 that person would be so kind as to leave a comment to this post!

It's not going to be the end of the world if visitor 10,000 doesn't spend more than a couple of seconds here, and doesn't even read this post - but it would be nice if they did!!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Does true atheism really exist?

Yesterday, I came across an article in which Nick Clegg – the then newly-elected leader of the British Liberal Democratic Party, who is currently enjoying an unexpected surge in popularity on the basis of his television appearances in the Leadership Debates (that conveniently ignore all but three Party leaders!) – readily confessed that he does not “believe in God”.

Now, of course, there is not only a post, but a whole sermon/lesson on what that statement actually means – but that is for another time, and place. However, I thought of Mr Clegg’s declared stance – apparently shared by many in our so-called ‘secular’ society – as I listened, this morning, to Major Richard Streatfeild, Commanding officer of ‘A’ Company, 4th Battalion The Rifles, serving in the very dangerous Sangin Valley, in the infamous Helmand Province of Afghanistan, share his regular despatch (http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8639000/8639053.stm).

He was reflecting on what were referred to as “soldiers’ superstitions” that have crept in during the Company’s tour of duty. "Riflemen are not usually a religious bunch", he stated, "but I can guarantee more prayers have been offered in the last six months than ever before. Early in the tour", he continues, "I heard a Section praying before they went out. ‘Lo, ’though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death’." It was, he said, simultaneously moving, and frightening! He also mentioned that although none of the riflemen wore a cross or a crucifix whilst stationed in the U.K., they were now very common. Almost his final comment was, "One doesn’t find too many atheists on the battlefield"!

Wasn’t it Augustine who once claimed, with reference to Almighty God, that “Thou hast made us for Thyself; and our hearts are restless ’til they find their rest in Thee.”? The modern equivalent would be the statement that “There’s a God-shaped blank in every heart, that only God can fill.”

So perhaps Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hitchens, Nick Clegg, and their like, should test their avowed atheism by volunteering to spend six months in Helmand Province – not as cosseted visitors, but as riflemen, facing the prospect of physical death each and every day. One wonders just how strong their atheistic ‘faith’ would be in such circumstances!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Jesus.

This morning, I was reminded of the wonderful truth that Jesus loves me. But I was also reminded that He loves me, not because I am worthy of His love. Rather, it is His love that gives me any worth that I may have.

My mind went back to Easter and, remembering that supreme demonstration of His love, I penned these thoughts:

He went alone - that we might have fellowship;
He was bound - that we might be set free;
He was forsaken - that we might be accepted;
He became sin - that we might be forgiven;
He suffered - that we might be healed;
He died - that we might live;
and, gloriously,
He rose from the dead - that we might rise and reign with Him.

Thank You, Jesus, for all that You are, and for all that You have done.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

An attitude of gratitude.

My younger daughter has just become the proud owner of a personalised registration number for her car! However, in order to effect the necessary changes in the Registration Document; the Road Tax disc; and the M.O.T. Test Certificate; these items had to be taken, or posted, to the DVLA Centre in Glasgow. Posting, she was informed, would entail a delay of a couple of weeks so - "Dad, would you take them in, please?"

Naturally, I agreed to do so and, I have to admit, she has been most effusive in her expressions of thanks. Of course, I did go to some trouble; I put in some effort; in order to help her in her time of need!

The Psalmist wrote: "God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble." (46:1). Paul wrote: "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Rom.5:8). Jesus told His disciples: "I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid." (John 14:27). James reminds us : "Come near to God, and He will come near to you." (4:8).

Indeed, the Bible is full of examples of the ways in which Almighty God works on behalf of, and provides for, those who are His children by grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus (God the Son). The little that I did for my daughter fades into total insignificance by comparison.

So perhaps I need to learn from her, and develop an attitude of gratitude - expressing my thanks to my Heavenly Father for all of His goodness, and faithfulness, and grace, and mercy, and love.

Perhaps you would like to join with me!!

Belief, and behaviour.

Not for the first time, the BBC Today programme raises an interesting question. In this morning’s programme, there was a discussion in which Andrea Williams (Christian Legal Centre), and Dinah Rose (Barrister, specialising in Human Rights Law) took part – a discussion that centred around the right of Christians to act, in certain situations, in accord with their beliefs and conscience. The cases referred to were those of Gary McFarlane - sacked for refusing to give psychosexual counselling to homosexual couples; and Lillian Ladele - a registrar who refused to conduct civil partnerships ceremonies, because they were against her Christian beliefs, and who has been told that she may no longer work as a registrar.


It was a comment by Dinah Rose, that “… there is a difference [there] between what people believe and the way that they behave.” that really got my attention. Because this is a statement that is diametrically opposed to the teaching of the Bible and, I would suggest, to our everyday experience of life!


The Letter of James is, arguably, the clearest teaching on the link between belief and behaviour. Indeed, one of the little commentaries on the text, that is on my bookshelves, is entitled Belief that Behaves (Guy H. King; 1941, Marshall, Morgan & Scott, London). In what we know as chapter 2 and verse 14 (although, of course, James didn’t write in chapters and verses any more than you or I would do!) he asks the question: “Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? My actions, or inactions, are always directly dictated by my beliefs. I don’t try to emulate the character Superman by attempting to stop a runaway train with my hand because I believe that I am physically incapable of doing so. I do provide some financial support for various Christian ministries and organisations because I believe that it is my duty, as a disciple of Jesus, to do so. The examples could keep me going for a very long time.


Of course, that is part of the problem with our contemporary culture, here in the U.K (and, it would seem, in other parts of the world as well!). Those who are most vociferous in their demands for “equality” get their way. Those who “For the Lord's sake, accept all authority – the king as head of state, and the officials he has appointed.” (I Peter 2:13-13) are taken advantage of at every turn.


This is, surely, another reason for believers, in this run-up to the U.K. General Election, to be praying that the Lord would use this opportunity in which so many members are not seeking re-election, to raise up an army of men and women who will genuinely aspire to the foundational “Seven Principles of Public Life: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty, and Leadership.” (The Committee on Standards in Public Life), and turn this nation around, that we might walk “… in the paths of righteousness, for His Name’s sake” (Ps.23:3).


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

It's the police!!

It was just an hour or so ago. I was sitting in my study, my open Bible in front of me. The telephone rang and, as my dear wife was out, I answered. It was the police! To be more precise, it was a Sergeant from 'Q' Division of Strathclyde Police. He had 'phoned me in order to let me know that he would be away on a training course for the next couple of days and, after having passed on this information (I was wearing my Force Chaplain hat!), he proceeded to have a friendly chat with me.

How different, I thought, as I eventually hung up the handset, from the situation in more than 50 countries around the world today! In those countries - North Korea; Iran; Saudi Arabia; Somalia, the Maldives; to name just the five worst ones - a call from the police would not have meant an exchange of information and pleasantries, but arrest, imprisonment (without trial), torture, and even death. And all because I had a Bible!

This morning, I have already joined with thousands, and tens of thousands, in praying for two young women - Maryam and Marzieh - in Iran who, today, are in court facing charges of "propogating Christianity" and "apostasy" (from Islam). As I sat in the relative safety of my study, I wondered if I could ever be charged with such "crimes" and, if I was, whether or not there would be sufficient evidence to convict me?!

The British parliamentary and judicial systems are, undoubtedly, far from perfect. However, let those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus be grateful that, at this time, we may still own - and even read - the Bible; that we may meet together, openly, for worship and fellowship; that we may share the Gospel message with those with whom we come into contact, without fear of punishment. Let us also seek to be built up in our faith, so that if persecution should come to our own land, we might show the same steadfastness, and loyalty to Jesus, as do Maryam and Marzieh - and millions of others around the world. And let us be faithful in our prayerful support of our those who are our rothers and sisters in Christ, remembering the words of Jesus, as recorded by Matthew:

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left.

Then the King will say to those on the right, `Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.' Then these righteous ones will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing? When did we ever see You sick or in prison, and visit You?' And the King will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'

Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, `Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his demons! For I was hungry, and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn't give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn't invite me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me no clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me.' Then they will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help You?' And He will answer, `I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help Me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life
." (25: 31-46).

Monday, 12 April 2010

More promises (empty?!).

Having feared that my hearing was going, after listening to the early evening news bulletin in which Mr Ed Milliband - referred to as the "author" of the Labour Party's Manifesto for the forthcoming General Election - was making a speech, I went to the trouble of recording that speech later on this evening, and then transcribing it. My hearing is fine! These are Mr Milliband's precise words:

We [i.e.the Labour Party] are the reformers in politics today; we are the people with the ideas of the future; because we are the people who say we can reform our economy for the future; we are the people who can say we can reform and improve our public services; and we’re the people who say we can reform and improve our politics.”

Forgive me if I am mistaken, but is this not a wee bit like me saying that I am the smartest boy in the class, because I can say that I am cleverer than anyone else? If this is the best that the Labour Party can produce - other than promises from a Party that promised the electorate a referendum on the new European Constitution, and used a change of name in order to renege on that promise (any promise about a higher rate of income tax has never affected me, so I confess to not having taken in the detail!) - then, although I have yet to be informed as to who most of my local ('safe' Labour) constituency candidates are, I will certainly not be supporting the Labour Party candidate who is standing for re-election.

An assurance that Labour will "rebuild the economy" also seems a bit rich coming from the Party, and the Chancellor, responsible for ensuring that this country was one of the worst-prepared for the global economic downturn. As an annual visitor to the "near-continent", I have watched the value of my pound sterling drop dramatically over the past three years. It was only three years ago that I could obtain €1.48 to my £1 from any High Street Currency Exchange shop. Now, I would be doing quite well if I could receive €1.10 - a drop of more than 25%. This, of course, doesn't only affect my holiday currency, but also things like the price of fuel at the pumps, with its knock-on effect on the price of goods in the shops.

However, it is in the realm of ethics, morality, and equality, that the government of the past 13 years has fallen down hardest. The raft of anti-Christian, anti-Biblical, anti-family, legislation has been unprecedented. The hypocrisy of members - mostly from the Labour benches - who voted in favour of all of us being fingerprinted for ID cards, but who appear, themselves, not to be ready to lead by example, and voluntarily take up the offer now that such cards are available; who have agreed that our children are now documented on the government's ContactPoint database, but who can get their own children "shielded" for the sake of their privacy; who voted to exempt themselves from the Freedom of Information Act, all in the name of their "privacy" of course, whilst passing laws that erode all of our privacy, is almost beyond belief!

It is my fervent hope that, whatever the final outcome of the voting on May 6th, the disastrous outgoing Labour government will be no part of the government of the U.K. for many, many years.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Promises, promises.

As is only to be expected in the run-up to a General Election, the airwaves and newspapers are becoming bogged down with the promises of the various political parties as thet endeavour to gain the support of the electorate. Sadly, past experience shows that, once elected, most politicians disappear from public view - although the new lot will, al least, be denied the exorbitant expenses that so many of the last lot abused in such a cavalier fashion!

Of course, as Someone said - admittedly, in a different context - many years ago: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." (John 8:7). Not one of us can, in all honesty, claim to have faithfully kept every promise that we have ever made! We may sometimes have a valid reason for breaking our word, but we don't always keep it.

That's part of the wonder of Almighty God. He keeps every promise that He makes - whether it is a promise of blessing, or of judgement! He's a faithful God, and I commend Him to all who have not yet submitted their lives to Him in repentance and obedience. Unlike the majority of politicians, He'll never let you down!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Another shot at fame!!!

Some weeks ago, I was invited to provide an online interview, because "someone" had recommended this blog to bloginterviewer.com

There is, apparently, a prize available for the blog that receives the most votes, each month. Please copy, and paste, the URL that is shown in the sidebar, and give me your vote - I understand that anyone may do so every day!

Any cash prize that I may win will be donated to Release International, and Open Doors - two of the organisations that my wife and I support in their work with the persecuted church.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

An election is announced!

At last, the date of the General Election has been set. Having hung on by his fingernails, for as long as he could, Gordon Brown has been obliged to give the British people their say.

The political pundits are predicting a 'hung' parliament - with no one party able to command an overall majority. Personally, I have no idea as to how it will all turn out, and who will be 'in power' on May 7th. I do, however, recall the old saying: "Man proposes, but God disposes"! As one who believes, fervently, in the sovereignty of God, I have no doubt that His will and purposes are being worked out, as year succeeds year.

This, of course, does not absolve the disciple of Jesus from prayer. Especially in the light of the unprecedented number of members of the outgoing parliament who - for whatever reason - are not seeking re-election, it has been my own prayer, for many months, that the Lord would see fit to use this opportunity to raise up a veritable army of men and women of faith and integrity, who would work together, across Party lines, to His glory, and bring something of the fragrance of the Lord Jesus to the corridors of the Palace of Westminster.

Whatever the coming four weeks may bring, we may be certain that we will hear the usual plethora of promises - even from the party that promised us a referendum on the new European Constitution, and then reneged on that promise. But let those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus, be faithful in our praying; use our vote, if we have one; and rejoice that, whatever the outcome:

"God is still on the throne; and He will remember His own.
'Though trials may press us, and burdens distress us,
He never will leave us alone.
God is still on the throne; He never forsaketh His own.
His promise is true - He will not forget you.
God is still on the throne."

Monday, 5 April 2010

Fresh evidence to support the veracity of the New Testament record!

The following video has been produced by CBN News. It certainly appears to be that the actual anchors referred to in Acts 27:29 have been discovered - even if the original finder was blissfully unaware of their significance!



If the video doesn't play smoothly (although pausing it, and waiting for 5-6 minutes before re-starting, should help), you may read the script at:

http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2010/February/Searching-for-Pauls-Shipwreck-on-Malta/ (sorry, you'll have to copy and paste!).

Sunday, 4 April 2010

He is risen!

At last - the Day of Resurrection! This morning, I was recalling (as well as my ageing memory would allow me to!) something that I think I heard from Arthur Blessit, the (then) young American evangelist who travelled all over the world, carrying a large wooden cross with him. I'm almost certain that he was speaking in St.George's-Tron Parish Church, in Glasgow, and he painted a word-picture that went something like this:

It is very early in the morning on that first Easter Day. Suddenly, there is a stirring as the breeze softly carries the news - "Jesus is risen; the stone is rolled away! Glory! Hallelujah!"

The grasses and the flowers pick up the message, and it floats over them, touching each blade, each petal - "Jesus is risen; the stone is rolled away! Glory! Hallelujah!"

The trees hear the message, and it rustles, ever more strongly through their leaves - "Jesus is risen; the stone is rolled away! Glory! Hallelujah!"

The refrain is picked up by the birds of the air, and they carry it all over the earth - "Jesus is risen; the stone is rolled away! Glory! Hallelujah!"

The chorus rises to the very gates of Glory, where angels had looked with dismay, and sorrow, on the body of the One Whom they knew as God the Son, hanging on a cross, battered, and bruised, and bleeding from the cruel treatment that He had received at the hands of His own creation. And, with joy, the message fills the halls of heaven - "Jesus is risen; the stone is rolled away! Glory! Hallelujah!"

And today - this Day of Resurrection - that same message is proclaimed around the world, by millions who still bow the knee before the Saviour - "Jesus is risen; the stone is rolled away! Glory! Hallelujah!"

That's the message of Easter. The unbeliever may scoff, and scoff his chocolate egg; but for those who are His disciples, the words of the old chorus still ring true:

"He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today.
He walks with me, and talks with me, along life's narrow way.
He lives! He lives - salvation to impart.
You ask me how I know He lives - He lives within my heart."

May each and all who read this post, also know the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus in their own lives - for their eternal good, and His eternal glory.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Where are we going?

One of the other (U.K.) news items today concerned the growing influence of students in Secondary Schools in England. Right away, I have to correct something - those who attend a College or University (tertiary education) are students. For those attending either Primary or Secondary School, the appropriate term is 'pupil(s)'.

The allegations that have apparently been made at the annual Conference of one of the major Teachers' Unions in England is that pupils are not only involved in feedback - something which I support, and which I encouraged while I was in the teaching profession - but that they are being involved in such activities as reporting on teachers, and in interviewing applicants for positions in their schools! Apparently, one teacher was appointed because pupils liked her red shoes; while another was rejected because a pupil thought that he looked like Humpty Dumpty!

For me, this simply supports my personal contention that we should not be granting voting rights to sixteen-year-olds, as some would advocate. These children (and, in reality, that is what they still are) are simply not mature enough, and do not (understandably!) have sufficient experience of life, to be involved in such important decisions - ones that affect the lives of other people.

For far too long, British society at large (I am not able to speak for other nations) has whittled away at the relative innocence of children; has tried to turn them into miniature adults when they are barely out of nappies (diapers); and has handed over more and more of parental responsibility to the state, in the form of pre-nursery places. It is, surely, little wonder that we have produced a generation which has so many who have little/no respect for authority of any kind;are totally hedonistic in outlook; and expect everything to be handed to them on the proverbial plate!

There is still a lot to be said for the injunction of Paul, as he wrote to the early disciple of Jesus, living in Ephesus: "
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. "Honour your father and mother." This is the first of the Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. And this is the promise: If you honour your father and mother, "you will live a long life, full of blessing." And now a word to you fathers. Don't make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord" (Eph.6:1-4).

It's when we fail to take note of the Maker's Handbook, that things go wrong!

Death - the real final frontier!

One of today's headline news items is the claim by the shadow Health Secretary that thousands of cancer sufferers are being denied life-extending drugs. I am not in a position to make any comment on the truth, or otherwise, of that claim. However, I do find the expression "life-extending" to be very interesting.

Obviously, most people want to live as long as possible, and to have a happy, productive, life. But is the basic problem in this situation not that we are afraid of death? Is this not why mankind is constantly endeavouring to extend life?

I suspect that the main part of that fear is the 'mystery' of what really does happen to us after our physical bodies have. In Hamlet's famous soliloquy, the English bard has the melancholy prince say: " To be or not to be– that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to sufferthe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep no more – and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to – 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there's the rub, for in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause." (Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; Act III, Sc.1) The basic thought that is being suggested is that, not knowing what happens when we die, must make us stop to think about it.

This is where the disciple of Jesus has a hope that is based on the resurrection of Jesus which, in spite of many claims to the contrary, and attempted 'alternative' explanations for the empty tomb (of which millions will be thinking, tomorrow), has never been disproved.

"I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again.", was His promise to the woman at the well (Jn.11:25). "There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you", He assured His disciples (Jn.14:2); "We know that the same God who raised our Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself along with you", wrote Paul to the Corinthian believers (II Cor.4:14).

Today is the 'in-between' day. Good Friday is past; the Day of Resurrection has yet to come. But we have that knowledge that was not afforded to the early disciples. Let us rejoice, therefore that, whether death comes to us sooner or later, we may have a confidence that it is not the final word; and that for those who are "in Christ" (Eph.1:4 et al), it is, indeed, the doorway into His nearer presence, and eternity spent with Him.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Good Friday

This is the day on which we are invited to come to a hill called Calvary, on which are erected three crosses. But it is the one in the middle that commands our attention!

We may think of its centrality - and not just in its physical location on that hill. If we are to understand anything about the life of the Lord, Jesus Christ, it must be in association with His death. His teaching; His compassion; His miracles; are all important - but the cross is central. His whole life moved towards that cross; and He knew it! It is also central in the teaching of the church, right since that first Day of Pentecost of the Christian era. It is central in the sermon, and in the sacrament. It is the symbol of the Christian faith that is recognised around the world. An understanding of the cross is essential to any understanding of the Christ; no appreciation of the Person of the Christ is complete without an understanding of His passion.

We may also think about the finality of the cross. When Jesus gave that loud shout: "Finished!" (John 19:30), He was not referring to His life, but to His work! And for that work to be completed, His death was necessary. If there was to be deliverance from sin, and hope for the future, He had to die. Something had to be done for mankind, that only God could do. And we may rejoice that His death was totally sufficient. There was, and is, nothing more to be done. We may recall that momentous event - but we can never repeat it.

And then, in total paradox, there is a regality in the cross. People had always sensed a particular authority about Jesus (Mark 1:27; Luke 4:36; John 7:46). It may often have been resented, but it was always recognised. And it was part of the identity that men clearly saw in Him. Pilate recognised that this was no ordinary man (Jn.19:19-22); the penitent thief recognised, in that broken and bloodied figure, a King (Lk.23:42); the centurion recognised that He was not the usual criminal whose crucifixion he regularly oversaw (Matt.27:54; Lk.23:47).

"Bearing shame, and scoffing rude; in my place, condemned He stood. Sealed my pardon with His blood - Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

The question is - "Is He your Saviour; your King? Have you given any real thought to what He's done - for you?" He died, in order that you might live. Receive Him, and know life - life in all its fullness (Jn.10:10).

Thursday, 1 April 2010

In the Garden

It was Thursday night. Jesus and His closest disciples had celebrated the Passover mean together. Judas had left and gone into the night (John 13:30). Then Jesus, and the other disciples, had gone to the olive grove that was named Gethsemane. There, He took Peter, James, and John and told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here, and watch with me." (Matt.26:38).

Matthew continues his record of the evening: "He went on a little farther ..." (v.39). Distance is a strange thing! It can sometimes be difficult to judge. If you have the opportunity to visit the Highlands of Scotland, you will quickly discover what I mean! That mountain that looked to be so close, turns out to be a half-day's walk away.

Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, may have gone, in literal terms, just "... a little farther ...". Certainly, the disciples were able to see, and to hear Him for at least part of the time (until their eyes closed as they dozed off). But, in a more figurative sense, He couldn't have gone any farther!

How far He went in His suffering. The crucifixion that He knew He was soon to undergo, is considered by many to be one of the most cruel forms of executing the death penalty that the twisted mind of fallen mankind has ever invented. The condemned man died in multiple ways - loss of blood, from the wounds made by the nails; hypothermia, as the naked body was left hanging there through the bitterly cold night; suffocation, as the blood rose in the throat. But for Jesus, the suffering was not only physical, but also spiritual. The holiness of God is such that the Father could not even look upon sin and so as, on the cross, Jesus took the sinfulness of mankind upon Himself, the Father had to turn away. The eternal relationship between Father and Son was, for a brief moment of time, broken. Little wonder that He cried out, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?"

How far He went in His solitude. "There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only (i.e. He alone; no-one else) could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in". This sinless One; this One Who could challenge even His enemies to convict Him of sin; this Man Who drew others to Him by the sheer force of His character; "... was despised and rejected - a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on Him, and looked the other way when He went by. He was despised, and we didn't care." (Isaiah 53:3)

And how far He went in His shame. The human body was designed by Almighty God and is, therefore "very good" (Gen.1:31). Nakedness is not 'bad' of itself. But if I am hanging, naked, on a cross, while others who are fully clothed stand around mocking me - then that can bring great shame. And, of course, He was hanging there, not because of any wickedness of His own, but for you and for me. "... it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God for His own sins!" (Is.53:4)

He couldn't have gone any farther in His submission; submission to the will of the Father. Yes, He could have asked the Father for thousands of angels, and He would have sent them instantly (Matt.26:53). But He had already uttered that prayer: "Not my will, but Yours, be done." "There was no other way a God of love could find to reconcile the world, and save a lost mankind." (John W.Peterson)

"He went on a little farther ...", and we may rejoice that He did. But, of course, His great sacrifice was in vain, if we fail to respond, positively, to it, and accept the great salvation that He has won.